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5th Dec 2016

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Vote for Schulz to ensure a German commission president, says ad

  • "Only if you vote for Martin Schulz and the SPD can a German become president of the European Commission," says the quarter page ad on page seven in the Bild newspaper (Photo: EUobserver)

While EU commission president candidates position themselves above the domestic fray – European candidates for a European job – their political parties at home can be much more pragmatic.

Germany's SPD party, political home to commission president candidate Martin Schulz, on Friday ran a quarter page ad in national papers saying that only a vote for the SPD will ensure that a German gets the top post.

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"Only if you vote for Martin Schulz and the SPD can a German become president of the European Commission," says the text of the ad in the Bild and Sueddeutsche newspapers, alongside a picture of the man himself.

The Bild Zeitung, a tabloid, is Germany's most widely-read newspaper. It has a populist tone and came to prominence beyond the country's borders for it shrill headlines and content about Greece at the height of the eurozone crisis.

The online version of the news paper features a less emphatic ad.

The picture remains the same but says: Martin Schulz. From Germany. For Europe. Vote SPD on 25 May.

The print version illustrates the extent to which European politics is still couched in domestic terms.

This is also reflected in the fact that the EU vote runs across four days and is often used as a tool to punish domestic politicians. There are also various rules on election thresholds and preferential voting and no transnational lists.

The SPD ad, with its nationalistic focus, also runs against the ethos of Schulz's own campaign which has been about emphasising European solutions for EU problems such as high youth unemployment and failing migration policy.

In a recent interview with Der Spiegel where he was asked about his nationality, Schulz said it does not play a role.

"Europe is in a very dangerous situation. We cannot consider each other to be adversaries. I have a European calling and nationality plays no role for me. I think people know that."

The ad is also likely to have unwittingly fed into fears that Germany's dominance in the EU – Berlin pushed the austerity-focussed response to the eurozone crisis – would be reinforced with a German commission president.

A spokesperson for Schulz said he had not yet seen the ad but added he would not be able to comment on it as "this is coming from the party".

EU treaty rules say commissioners should represent the common European good, however member states are always keen to get "their" man or woman in charge of an influential dossier.

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